In December, with House and Senate passage of an omnibus spending bill including $32 billion for the National Institutes of Health (NIH), MD Anderson leaders applauded a significant reversal in the recent trend in decreased federal funding for medical and scientific research. The 2016 allotment is $2 billion over the past year’s funding level and represents the NIH’s largest budget increase — 6% — in more than 10 years. Of specific note on the cancer front, it also includes more than $5 billion for the National Cancer Institute (NCI), a 5% increase over the previous year.
The news came after a months-long grassroots effort to inform legislators of the impact increased NIH/NCI funding could have on the future of cancer research in the United States. MD Anderson Cancer Center Board of Visitors (BOV) member Jed Manocherian, of New York, spearheaded ACT (Advancing Cures Today) for NIH, an initiative to restore the nation’s priorities in funding innovative and potentially lifesaving medical research. Instrumental in this effort were Larry Bathgate, Paul Begala, Ed Bosarge, Rick Calhoon, Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, Marlene and Fred Malek, Linda McCaul, Mack McClarty, Pat Oxford and Andy Sabin, as well as Mark Moreno and Ed Miller of MD Anderson’s Governmental Relations office.
“The scourge of cancer that touches millions of people across the nation has united our leaders to pass this legislative package, and we’re grateful this funding soon will be available to researchers at MD Anderson and other outstanding institutions,” says MD Anderson President Ronald DePinho, M.D., who traveled extensively to the nation’s capital to discuss funding needs with legislators and policy makers. “This action sends the message to our patients, researchers, student scientists and advocates that, once again, medical research is a national priority. Science saves lives, and more grants will help us fulfill our mission to end cancer.”
The NIH, a part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, is the nation’s medical research agency and comprises 27 institutes and centers, including the NCI. MD Anderson received 274 awards from the NIH totaling almost $123 million in 2015. Among those were 179 NCI grants totaling more than $85 million. The NCI currently funds six MD Anderson SPORE (Specialized Programs of Research Excellence) grants focused on advancing new therapies and drugs to patients as quickly as possible.